At 16, John D. Rockefeller entered the world of business as a bookkeeper with Hewitt and Tuttle, a produce brokerage firm in Cleveland, Ohio. Two years later, the young man had a fight with the firm owner about his low pay and quit his job to open his produce brokerage firm.
His firm became one of the best in Cleveland, and his name became a household name. However, when the young prodigy heard about the oil industry, he did not let his success in the produce business slow him down. He teamed up with a chemist to start one of the first refineries in the United States. Rockefeller called it Standard Oil, and the rest is a story to be told for centuries. By 1865, Standard Oil was the most profitable company in the world.
Today, I like to share with you the 5-key principles that made John D Rockefeller the richest man in the world. Despite some people’s opinions of him, these five principles can help you build a successful business.
1. Always Tell The Truth
The most important thing for a young man is to establish a credit… a reputation, character. John D Rockefeller
Rockefeller was an honest man, his dad was not. His dad’s dishonesty caused Rockefeller to be a stickler for the truth. His honesty made him seem cruel and distant from people. However, bankers loved his honesty, and they rewarded him for it. They were willing to partner with him and fund most of his business ventures because they trusted him.
Rockefeller built his work culture on honesty. He held everyone accountable and told them the Kind Truth often. This habit of telling the truth helped him be consistent and accountable.
2. Pay Attention to Detail
Don’t blame the marketing department. The buck stops with the chief executive. John D Rockefeller
Ron Chernow talks about Rockefeller’s attention to detail in his best-selling books Titan. From his appearance, morning routine, daily habits, professional relationships, obsession with numbers, Rockefeller paid attention to every minor detail. These minor details added up to create the most powerful businessman in the world.
Rockefeller had one of the best accounting practices of his time. He recognized if you want to achieve your big vision; obsess over every number in your business. Rockefeller had a great accounting system, Ledger A. The system revealed to historians how and why he was able to achieve greatness. He used to record every business expense and every small revenue. He made decisions with two things in mind, to increase revenue and to cut costs every day.
Rockefeller was visiting an oil rig site when he asked a worker, “How much solder do you use to seal a can of oil?” The worker said, “40 drops.” Rockefeller asked him to use a little less. The worker started to use 39. This little improvement saved Standard Oil $2,500 in the first year, and hundreds of thousands more in the years that followed.
Rockefeller was efficient with tasks and projects, but not people. He wanted to save money when it comes to spending on projects, but not when he worked with people. Rockefeller took his time to get to know everyone that worked with him and treated everyone with a lot of respect.
3. Build a Great Team.
Good management consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people. John D Rockefeller
He was fair to his employees. He treated and paid them well. He was one of the first businessmen that allowed his employees to submit complaints or suggestions directly to him. He understood that to build a glorious business; he had to build a great team.
He focused on emotional intelligence. “The ability to deal with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee, and I will pay more for that ability than for any other under the sun.” He only hired people who had the ability to deal with people. He wanted to build a team based on technical skills and emotional intelligence. He was ahead of his time.
4. Take Care of Yourself
If your only goal is to become rich, you will never achieve it. John D Rockefeller
In his memoir, Rockefeller talks about the importance of self-care. He warns people from sacrificing their health to gain their wealth. Rockefeller advised his team not to spend most of their waking hours working and to pay attention to other aspects of their lives. By taking care of his health, he lived to a ripe old age and passed away at 97.
One of his most impactful quotes, “He who works all day has no time to make money.” He believed that if you do not take care of yourself, you won’t be able to make money. This philosophy goes against the hustling culture that we are living in today. Steve Harvey went viral for saying, “Rich people don’t sleep.” It is a badge of honor in our society to say, “I do not sleep, I hustle 24/7.”
I’m an early riser, but I go to sleep early. Grant Cardone agrees with me, “After about 9 or 10 o’clock if you’re not producing something, you’re probably getting in trouble or taking in a bunch of garbage off the TV.” When I get to the office early, my team thinks I do not sleep, I sleep well, but I sleep earlier than most people. I’m not willing to lose sleep to watch Netflix.
Self-care starts with good sleep, a lot of water, exercise, and a good diet. If you ignore any of these things, you won't be able to create work worth sharing.
5. Stay Focused On Your Goals
We are refining oil to the poor man, and he must have it good and cheap. John D Rockefeller
Rockefeller stayed focused on his goals, consistent with his habits, and persistent with his approach. When he moved to Cleveland, he searched for a job meticulously. He treated his job search just like a job; he put on a black suit, shaved, cleaned his shoes, and got ready to sell his services. His sale approach was simple, “I know how to do bookkeeping, and I’m looking for work. Would you like me to help?”
When he faced a difficult situation, he asked himself, “Where is the opportunity here? He did not focus on making money, he focused on opportunities and solving problems. Making money was the outcome of him delivering results.
Rockefeller kept his primary goal the driving force behind his actions, “We are refining oil to the poor man, and he must have it good and cheap.” He understood that everything that he does had to serve this big purpose. What is your biggest goal?
If you use these five principles, you will build a better business. Always tell the truth, pay attention to details, build a great team, take care of yourself, and stay focused on your goals.
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